Wednesday, May 26, 2010

From today's Times online - Kasper on Pius XII and the Archives

The Cardinal in charge of Christian unity at the Vatican has promised that the Vatican archives for the entire period of the Second World War, when the Church has been accused of failing to do enough to help the Jewish people, will be opened soon for scholarly research.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Council for Christian Unity, also warned that cutting itself off from its Jewish roots for centuries weakened the Church so badly that it could only offer a "feeble" resistance against persecution of the Jews.

He said that Israel without the Church was in danger of becoming "too particularistic and reclusive", but that the Church without Israel was "in danger of losing its historical grounding and becoming ahistorical and Gnostic."

He added: "Judaism and Christianity need each other and therefore are dependent on each other."

The Cardinal was speaking at Liverpool's Hope university in an address described by the Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Rev Patrick Kelly as one that had prompted in him "a change in heart and mind."

Addressing one of the most sensitive and difficult aspects of Jewish-Christian relations, the papacy of Pius XII, described as "Hitler's Pope" by the influential British author and academic John Cornwell, Cardinal Kasper promised the full archives for the period covered by the Second World War would soon be opened to scholars at the Holy See in Rome. "We have nothing to hide," he said. "We do not need to fear the truth."

Describing the state-sponsored organized murder of six million European Jews as "the absolute low point" in the history of anti-Semitism he nevertheless said the Holocaust could not be attributed to Christianity as such, since it also had clear anti–Christian features.

But he added: "However, centuries–old Christian theological anti–Judaism contributed as well, encouraging a widespread antipathy for Jews, so that ideologically and racially motivated anti–Semitism could prevail in this terrible way, and the resistance against the outrageous inhuman brutality did not achieve the breadth and clarity that one should have expected."

Defending the record of Pius XII, a candidate for canonisation who was Pope from 1938 to 1958, while Rome was under the heel of Mussolini and later occupied by Germany, he said the contemporary assessment of his Pontificate was rather positive.

"The New York Times, which is not known as a Church–oriented newspaper, had already in 1941 published an editorial where it spoke of the Pope as the only voice in the silence and in the dark with the courage to raise his voice," the Cardinal said. "After the deportation of more than 1000 Jews from Rome - only 15 survived - in October 1943 he ordered a general Church asylum in all convents and ecclesiastical houses, including the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo. According to authoritative estimates, about 4500 Jews were hidden."

He said there were still Jews today who defended Pius as well as Catholic authors who criticised him and acknowledged that the main problem was access to the sources.

He promised that the archives for Pius XII's papacy would be online within six years. Since 2003 access has been available up until the end of the Pontificate of Pius XI in 1939, a period in which the future Pius XII was Secretary of State.

"The material which is already accessible now proves that Pius XII was at no time Hitler’s Pope. On the contrary, he was the closest cooperator of Pope Pius XI in the publication of the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (“With burning anxiety", 1937), which was a fervent condemnation of Nazi race ideology.

"The Archives are now working under intense pressure on the project to prepare access to the Pontificate of Pius XII, but the registration and preparation of millions of documents in a due professional way needs time and will be completed in about five or six years, after which general access for scholars will be granted."

Eleven volumes with documents of the Holy See have already been made public and recently many other sources have become available.

The Cardinal said: "Pius XII was not a man of prophetic gestures; he was a diplomat and decided not to be silent but to be moderated in his public statements because he knew that stronger words would improve absolutely nothing; on the contrary, they would provoke brutal revenge and worsen the situation. Therefore he decided not so much to act through words but to help practically as much he could. In this way alone in Rome he saved thousands of Jewish lives."

Acknowledging another area of difficulty, proselytism, he continued: "Unfortunately there has been a history of forced conversions of Jews." The Church no longer endorsed evangelism of the Jews, he said. "In contrast to some fundamentalist evangelical movements which undertake missionary work, the Catholic Church sponsors no specific institutional missionary work aimed at Jews."

Archbishop Kelly afterwards described the address as "a highly significant contribution" to relations between the two faiths. He said: "Cardinal Kasper's address prompted in me personally, a change in heart and mind. It demanded a new way of thinking and so, of acting."

Earlier this month, Cardinal Kasper, a theologian and linguist, was honoured in the US for "extraordinary" achievements in interfaith dialogue. The American Jewish committee presented him with the prestigious Isaiah Inter-religious Award at its annual meeting in Washington DC.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More on the Letter to Pope Benedict XVI on Pope Pius XII

This article appeared The Jewish Week (New York).  I am grateful to Steve Lipman for permission to reproduce the article here. 

Now towards the end of May there has been no word from Rome in response to the letter.  This is of itself, not a cause for surprise.  Rome often takes a long time to move on things and the response may come through any number of ways.  What I find encouraging about the letter and the debate it has caused is that the participants in the conversations about Pius XII cross all sorts of lines.  And the quality of the conversation, for the most part, is improving.  I doubt any serious historians or theologians believe discussion about Pius is motivated by a desire to do harm to the Catholic Church. It is, as it has been, a search for the truth.

Catholic Scholars To Pope: Slow Down On Pius Sainthood

Nineteen in letter voice ‘serious concerns’ about fast-tracking of Shoah-era pope’s canonization.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Steve Lipman, Staff Writer

The largely Jewish effort to slow down the proposed canonization of the pope who headed the Catholic Church during World War II has taken a more ecumenical tone.

Nineteen prominent Catholic scholars and theologians last week sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI, urging him to put aside plans to declare Pius XII, the controversial pontiff during the Holocaust, a saint until historians gain full access to the Vatican’s wartime archives. The letter, intended as an internal Church document, was leaked to Reuters in Rome and subsequently made public.

The “faithful, practicing Catholics, consecrated and lay” who signed the letter declared that “the movement to press forward at this time the process of beatification of Pius XII greatly troubles us.” Beatification is a preliminary step to the declaration of sainthood.

“In essence, Pius XII has become a century old symbol of Christian anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism,” the letter states. “It is challenging to separate Pius XII from this legacy.”

Pius XII, who received praise in Jewish circles immediately after World War II for his opposition to Nazism, became subject to wide criticism following Rolf Hochhuth’s 1963 play, “The Deputy,” which depicted the pope as a vacillating figure with little interest in the fate of endangered Jews. Critics say he turned his back on Jewish suffering; supporters say his behind-the-scenes role helped save thousands of Jewish lives.

German-born Pope Benedict XVI late last year decreed the “heroic virtues” of Pius XII, John Paul II and 15 other Catholics, a step on the road to canonization.

Pius’ record is subject to dispute, according to many scholars.

“It’s a record of too much timidity,” said Sister Mary Boys, professor of practical theology at Union Theological Seminary.

The letter raises the question “Is there really a need for haste?” said Philip Cunningham, director of the Institute of Jewish-Catholic Relations at Saint Joseph’s University. “It’s a plea for ‘let’s take our time.’” “The letter is a request for a continued hold on the canonization.”

It does not take a position on the possibility of eventual canonization at some point down the road, Rev. John Pawlikowski, professor of ethics at Catholic Theological Union and one of the organizers of the letter, told The Jewish Week in an e-mail interview.

Rev. Pawlikowski, like the 18 other signers, is a veteran of interfaith activities, in which the possible canonization of Pius XII has played a prominent role — particularly for Jewish participants — in recent years.

“We sent this letter because we feel that too often the issue of Pius XII is portrayed as one of Jewish concern,” Rev. Pawlikowski told the Catholic News Service. “We wanted to make it clear that some Catholics who have worked on Holocaust issues have serious concerns about advancing the cause of Pius XII at this time.”

“The Catholic scholars’ letter has strengthened the [interfaith] dialogue by demonstrating that our counterparts have the same fidelity to historic truth as we do,” said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.

The Vatican had not responded to the letter by early this week, and several representatives of Catholic organizations said there is no way to predict what effect, if any, such a letter may have on papal behavior.

The signers of the letter “are close to the sensitivities of the Jewish community,” but the letter “will not really have any impact,” said Gary Krupp, president of the Pave the Way Foundation, an independent organization that works to improve Jewish relations with the Vatican.

“Those of us who signed it hope that our considered scholarly opinions will be taken into consideration” by Benedict XVI, said Sister Carol Rittner, professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. “My ‘biggest hope’ is that he will be given the letter so that he personally can read it.”

Rev. Pawlikowski said he and Rev. Kevin Spicer, associate professor of history at Stonehill College, drafted the letter “because we felt it was necessary for Vatican leaders to know that there was important Catholic opposition to fast-tracking Pius’ canonization and because we felt that the apparent ‘hold’ on his canonization was in danger of being lifted. We wanted to encourage the pope to continue the hold so that scholars, particularly Catholic scholars, could continue to do their necessary research without having the extra burden of critiquing an already canonized saint. We think out letter might just help keep the hold in place.”

Most Jewish opponent’s of the pope’s canonization have emphasized that the Catholic Church’s declaration of sainthood is a purely internal Catholic decision, but that a premature canonization of Pius XII is likely to harm Jewish-Catholic relations that improved following the Second Vatican Council’s inter-religious advances in the early 1960s, and during the papacy of John Paul II.

“It is an extremely good sign — that there are elements within the Catholic Church who ... do not wish to see that progress being rolled back,” said Menachem Rosensaft, vice president of the American Gathering organization.

Signers of the letter include Eugene Fisher, retired associate director of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Relations; Paul O’Shea, an Australian author who has written a balanced history of Pius’ wartime record; and Frank Coppa, professor of history at Saint John’s University who is writing a biography of Pius XII.

“History needs distance and perspective” to make a thorough examination of Pius’ papacy, the letter states. “Proceeding with the cause of Pope Pius XII, without an exhaustive study of his actions during the Holocaust, might harm Jewish-Catholic relations in a way that cannot be overcome in the foreseeable future.”

The signers of the letters reflect the views of a larger group of Catholics who are troubled by Pius’ canonization before the opening of Vatican archives, observers said.

“I regard it as not just 19 people, but 19 people speaking on behalf of many of us,” said Sister Boys.

Holocaust expert Michael Berenbaum said the signers of the letter, mostly veterans of interfaith work “who grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust” and of Vatican II, took to heart the Church’s increasing openness to ecumenism over recent decades.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a hidden child in Poland during the Holocaust, called the letter a “very significant, important gesture. The views of Catholics resonate a lot more seriously” in the Vatican than those of outsiders.

The Catholic News Service report on the letter brought a mixed response from readers. “I see a lot of signatures, but none from anyone whose opinion matters,” one reader wrote. “These are very important voices,” wrote another.

Copies of the letter were also sent to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, and New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Episcopal Moderator for Catholic-Jewish Relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

What effect will the leaking of the private document have on the Vatican’s decision-making process?

Philip Cunningham of Saint Joseph’s University said a mixed reaction is likely. “It will annoy those in the Vatican hierarchy who wish to see Pius canonized.” On the other hand, he said, “It might give people pause who are not necessarily ready to have that happen right away.”

Friday, May 14, 2010

Revisiting the October 2000 International Commission Report on Pius XII

In an earlier entry I referred to the recent conference organised by Pave The Way Organisation in Rome that met to discuss the 47 questions raised by the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission.  The ICJHC was formed in 1999, met until October 2000 and was disbanded in 2001.  The report was presented to the world by the ICJHC when further progress with the Vatican was effectively ruled out.  The circumstances of the break-down in communication have been the subject of some controversy made more so by some rather intemperate remarks of Peter Gumpel SJ, the relator of the cause of Pius XII. (See comments below)

The report is available online, and deserves close reading.  The questions asked are valid and well thought out.  A comprehensive list of footnotes follows the text with references to Acts and Documents.

Articles on the Commission's work have generally focused on the perceived reasons for its "failure" rather than the opportunity to explore in detail the issues raised in the questions.  Dimitri Cavalli's article in the New Oxford Review and published in EWTN's archive source is one such example.  Carping on the ability or lack thereof among the scholar's command of Italian becomes churlish when one looks at the academic credentials of each individual.  And the commission was provided with translators.  Although Cavalli leans towards exonerating Pius, he does, at least, recognise the need for more study.

I wrote a final chapter in my PhD on the work of the commission which was not included in A Cross Too Heavy.  At the risk of wearing the reader, I present the unpublished chapter.  The writing was completed in 2003, just over a year before the death of Pope John Paul II.  I crave the reader's indulgence for the use of the present tense when writing of the Pope.

Pacelli’s Ghost
and the
International Catholic Jewish Historical Commission

In 1998, Pope John Paul II authorised the publication of We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah.  This document was timed for release shortly before Passover and Easter. It was the first Vatican statement which addressed the Holocaust by name.  The Pope’s intention was to “help to heal the wounds of past misunderstandings and injustices.” (We Remember Introduction) 

No other pope in Catholic history has done as much as John Paul to build bridges between Catholicism and Judaism.  His visit to Auschwitz in 1979 was as much an act of homage to the Jews who died there as it was a commemoration of the Christians who also perished. In 1986, he made a very public visit to the Rome Synagogue; the first pope to ever visit the oldest schule in Western Europe, describing the Jews as the “beloved elder brothers” of Christians.  What drove the Polish-born Pontiff to order We Remember came directly from his own wartime experiences of Nazism and the “Final Solution”.  The document did not resolve the questions surrounding Pius XII.  In fact, the questions appeared to have been made more complex.

The chief points of contention lay in the distinction made between Christian anti-Judaism and antisemitism and the comments on the wartime role of Pius XII. While the document recognised the failure of individual Christians, it did not acknowledge or suggest a failure on the part of the teaching authority of the Church.  “Despite the Christian preaching of love for all, even for one’s enemies, the prevailing mentality down the centuries penalized minorities and those who were in any way ‘different.’” (We Remember  3)  The blame for antisemitism was pushed away from the Magesterium. In fact, the language of this part of the document was dangerously close to echoing the bald and historically insupportable generalised claim made by one of Pacelli’s earlier biographers: “The Church has always come to the defense of the Jews in the past when they were persecuted". (Joseph Dinnen 1939, Pius XII: Pope of Peace, p 196)

Of greater concern was the assertion that followed the distinction made above. Not only were anti-Judaism and antisemitism two different ideologies; the later did not draw from the former. The document stated:

The Shoah was the work of a thoroughly modern neo-pagan regime. Its antisemitism had its roots outside Christianity and, in pursuing its aims, it did not hesitate to oppose the Church and persecute her members also. (We Remember 4)

On this point there has been loud and vigorous argument. It is a statement that does not bear the weight of historical evidence and makes the tenor of the whole document weaker. In fact this statement is what I call a type of “Catholic denialism”, an unwillingness to “own” the truth about the Church’s role during the Holocaust. The historical data proves beyond reasonable doubt that such a distinction is as impossible as it is false. Much of Nazism grew in the fertile soil of traditional Christian antisemitism and anti-Judaism.

Partly out of response to the criticism launched by We Remember, the Vatican announced a new historical commission in late 1999 to re-examine the twelve volumes of Actes et Documents.  Actes et Documents du Saint-Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre mondiale came into being as a direct result of Hocchuth’s play The Deputy and the growth of academic and religious unrest over the role of Pius XII during the Holocaust.  Pope Paul VI ordered a team of Vatican appointed scholars to sift through the documents of the Secretariat of State and collate evidence to show that charges of papal inaction were untrue.  The work lasted from 1965 until 1981.  The volumes are an impressive undertaking and do show the Church’s highest officials, among whom was Giovanni Battista Montini – the future Paul VI – active in work to alleviate the plight of many different victim groups.   Curiously, there appeared to be some serious gaps in the records.  This was a point the Commission was to note in 2000.

The International Catholic Jewish Historical Commission (ICJHC) was made up equally of Catholic and Jewish historians.  Catholic members were Eva Fleischner, Gerald Fogarty and John Morley, from the United States.  The Jewish members were Belgian Bernard Suchecky, Israeli Robert Wistrich and Canadian Michael Marrus.  

In October 2000, the commission presented a preliminary report.  The commission raised 47 questions concerning Pius, drawn from a study of Actes et Documents.  Cardinal Walter Kasper, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, commented in June 2001 that the Commission had not achieved what it set out to do, and that a second attempt needed to be made. (Cf Inside the Vatican  June 2001)  Rather than bring an air of academic harmony over Pius, the exact opposite happened.  The questions still remained unanswered. Historians hoped that John Paul would accept the report and allow greater access to the Vatican archives and personal papers of Pius – if they exist.

A lengthy introduction was necessary in order to place the International Commission within its context.  The mandate of ICJHC was limited only to the published Actes et Documents (1965-1981).  When pressed on whether the commission would have access to unpublished material, Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the then president of the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, answered “absolutely no.” (Cf The Tablet (London) 30.11.1999)  (This, of itself, was not surprising.  The announcement of the limited opening of the ASV Germany files was not made until February 2003) 

Members of the Commission undertook the reading and researching of the published texts. However, eleven months into their investigation it was clear that the published record was inadequate.  There is evidence to suggest that members of the panel were becoming increasingly frustrated by Vatican intransigence over access to archives.  On 25 October 2000, the Paris daily Le Monde published an article claiming the ICJHC had reached the conclusion that Pius XII did not speak out clearly in defence of the Jews of Europe.  Seeking to avoid a direct “showdown” with Rome, the ICJHC called a press meeting the following day to present its Preliminary Report and the accompanying list of 47 questions drawn from the Actes et Documents.  Both Commission and Vatican officials expressed positive sentiments that the material studied would help shed light on Pacelli’s role.  For the moment, things seemed to be back on course.

Central to the ICJHC’s critique of the published documents was the inadequacy of relying on them alone. In its article on the presentation of the Preliminary Report The Tablet remarked:

Not everyone was happy with the press conference. Jesuit priest Peter Gumpel, the postulator, or official promoter of the beatification, of Pius XII, declared the conduct of the ICJHC as “disloyal to the Holy See, academically unacceptable and incorrect.” (Zenit 27.10.2000) Gumpel went on to ask if the ICJHC was intent on defaming the memory of Pius XII. Emphasising the preliminary nature of the report, Gumpel said it would have to be studied carefully by Vatican historians.  What irked the German-born Jesuit was the release of the report on the internet and to the press. “With what right have they circulated the Preliminary Report, which includes harsh accusations against Pius XII and the Church, without having even heard the answers to the questions posed?” (Zenit, ibid.)
No serious historian’ could accept that the published, edited volumes were the last word on the matter … Absent from these volumes, the report says, are day-to-day records and internal communications – diaries, memoranda, briefing notes, appointment books and minutes of meetings – that would establish how Pius and members of his curia reached their decisions. (Tablet 04.11.2000)

At the end of 2001, the work of the commission remained suspended.  The Vatican adamantly claimed that the work of the ICJHC was sabotaged through slander and an agenda which was more directed at attacking the Catholic Church than searching for the truth.  The members of the commission begged to differ, standing by their July letter that unless that Vatican opened the archives for Pius XII to independent scrutiny, no successful resolution of the questions surrounding Pacelli’s wartime role would be possible. Cardinal Kapser’s continued assertion that access to post-1922 material was impossible because of the “sensitive, sacramental nature of some of the documents” rang hollow. (Catholic World News 24.08; 27.08.2001)
... this initiative which was intended to improve relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community, has failed, and this is the direct responsibility of those who, contravening the most elementary academic and human norms, have made themselves culpable of irresponsible behaviour. (Zenit  26.07.2001)

Vatican prevarication only served to foster the sense that there is something to hide, a fear Kapser appeared anxious to avoid.  At the end of August, in a gesture that could be interpreted as conciliatory, the Cardinal announced Rome’s intention of speeding up the classification of some three million pages of war time documentation.  Referring to the breakdown between the ICJHC and the Vatican, Kasper commented that the central issue was not access to documents, but the wording of the final report. This clearly contradicted the formal statement of the commission itself. (Zenit  29.08.2001)

Where does the historian go from here? At present, the only way forward is the continued combing through archival material from a wide range of sources.  Vatican letters, statements, opinions and directives were written and received all over Europe through the Nazi era.  Copies exist in diocesan archives, in the provincial houses of different religious orders and in private collections.  There is sufficient material drawn from diplomatic records, public archive sources and newspapers to allow the historian a fairly comprehensive picture of Pope Pius’ role during the war years.  Susan Zuccotti’s Beneath his Windows, examining the pope’s role during the persecution of Italy’s Jews, is an excellent example of research that works well without Vatican input.

I believe the stumbling block in all of this is the fading world view held by men such as Peter Gumpel.  He sincerely believes that Pius was a good and holy man, worthy of the “honours of the altar”, a statement he expressed to me earlier in 2001.  And he is not alone in thinking this way.  At the same time Fr Gumpel wrote to me, the Vatican was preparing to canonise the controversial founder of Opus Dei, Monsignor José Maria Escriva, a supporter of Francisco Franco. Escriva’s spirituality owed much to the vigorous Catholic, antisemitic fascism of the Generalissimo.

"The world” does not understand what moves the actions of great men such as Pius XII.  While we may not appreciate or understand the reasons behind action or non-action, we must always believe that they acted from the purest of motives, in obedience to their conscience and God.  To question the action or inaction of Pope Pius XII is tantamount to questioning the action of the Church.  The syllogism closes with the logical conclusion – since the pope is Christ’s vicar on earth, he acts as Christ.  And while he may be infallible in matters of faith and morals only, his pattern of life suggests a surety of God’s direction that should not be questioned by those who do not understand and who do not share the Catholic faith as shared in the halls of the Vatican.  The dispute over the commission could have more to do with the preservation of an historical illusion over papal power and prestige than with discovering the truth of Pacelli’s role during the war.

The great disappointment for men like Gumpel is the encroaching daily reality that their worldview is dying.  Most Catholics no longer accept this view of papal authority.  Indeed, most intelligent and critically aware Catholics question the secrecy that surrounds much of the day to day running of the Vatican, and find it increasingly out of step with the modern world.  Only with an open, honest and frank dialogue with all the material available can historians, regardless of faith background, hope to complete the work begun by the ICJHC.  Pope Leo XIII opened the Vatican archives in 1893 with the statement: “The Church has nothing to fear from the truth.” It remains to his successors to put that into practice.

Several days after I completed this segment, the Vatican announced it was opening the Secret Archives relating to Germany up to 1939.  Announcing the Pope’s decision on 15 February 2002, the Vatican Press Office, said that John Paul wanted to open the archives for historians and end “unjust and disagreeable speculations” over the role of his predecessor. (Zenit  15.02.2002)  While public opinion has not generally been a motivator in Vatican policy-making processes, it is, perhaps, significant that consistent criticism from both Catholic and Jewish scholars along with a growing sense of unease among many “ordinary” Christians and Jews, has been instrumental in forcing a change.  Historians are now waiting expectantly for the new material to emerge from the archives.  I doubt very much if a “smoking gun” will be found, but I am convinced that information that will help scholars understand the inner workings of the Vatican during the Holocaust will be found.  For this reason, if for no other, the work of the ICJHC can be judged to have been successful.

Father Gumpel’s next comment is telling for its subtext. “I wonder why they have done this.  Did they wish to influence public opinion against Pius XII and the Church?  This has happened precisely when we Catholics are making all kinds of efforts to improve relations with the Jewish world.”  Suspicions that a Jewish plot lurked near the surface of the ICJHC were all but named by Gumpel in July 2001.  Some, “not all”, Jewish members of the ICJHC “publicly spread the suspicion that the Holy See was trying to conceal documents that, in its judgement, would have been compromising.” (Zenit 02.07.2001)  Gumpel’s evident distrust of the Jewish historians, which pre-date the work of the Commission, appears to point towards a presupposition that they would be prejudiced against Pacelli.  At no point has Gumpel asked whether this is so, or why such a prejudice could be possible.  At the very least, it displays an unwillingness to address the central issue – access to archives and unsorted documents, and the possibility there might be more to learn about the war-time pope.

The newly appointed president of the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Cardinal Walter Kapser, requested a final presentation from the commission on 21 June 2001.  A month later the commission replied that “without a positive response to our respectful request” to study the unpublished material in the archives, the ICJHC’s conclusions would be invalid.  Therefore, on 20 July, the commission suspended its work.  The commission’s letter was later published by the World Jewish Congress and summarised by the BBC. Father Gumpel left no doubt as to where the blame lay for the collapse of the research:

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hubert Wolf "Why did the Pope keep quiet about the Holocaust?"

Newspapers whether in print or electronic form create "hooks" to grab and keep the reader's attention.  In this case, my attention was well and truly grabbed by this rather dramatic headline.  This article appeared in the latest online edition of the US magazine Foreign Policy.  According to Wikipedia, Foreign Policy  describes itself as “a daily web magazine that is a must-read for anyone who cares about international affairs, … indispensable, insightful and as diverse as the subjects it covers, … serious but never stuffy.”

The magazine certainly lives up to its claims in this article. 

Hubert Wolf (b 1959), is a priest of the diocese of Rottenberg-Stuggart and a published historian who since 1999 has been on the faculty of Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster.  He has also worked in the archives of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (Holy Office / Inquisition) as well as in the Secret Archives (ASV).

In 2008 he published "Papst und Teufel"  which will be released in English later in May under the title "The Pope and the Devil: the Vatican's archives and the Third Reich".

This article has an odd title considering most of it centres on the famous bishop of Münster, Clemens August Graf von Galen (1876-1946). 

And while this is interesting, it is the claim in the opening paragraph that I find disturbing:

How much did the Catholic Church hierarchy know about the Holocaust as it was happening? And why didn't it speak up? With the opening of the Vatican archives from the World War II years, we can finally explore these heated questions -- and German historian Hubert Wolf has dug through the files to find damning evidence that Pope Pius XII, known to critics as "Hitler's pope," made a conscious decision to pass on the issue, leaving it up to his bishops in Germany to protect the Jews and Catholics who were being killed. Even when directly confronted with the growing enormity of the situation, as in this story of a German bishop who did stand up for his morals, the pope avoided public action.

Firstly, the "Vatican archives from the World War II years" are not opened and will not be for at least another three years.  Secondly, I find it hard to believe that a scholar of Wolf's standing would have "dug through the files to find damning evidence" that Pius XII "made a conscious decision to pass on the issue, leaving it up to his bishops in Germany to protect the Jews and Catholics who were being killed".  Thirdly, I suspect that the editors of Foreign Policy thought it in keeping with their mandate to never be "stuffy" to play loose with the historical record. The readers of Foreign Policy deserve better.

Whatever one's position on Pius XII it must be, at least, based on the historical record and intellectual honesty.  If Hubert Wolf did not know of the introductory paragraph the editors have a moral imperative to clarify the ambiguity.  As the article stands it is an interesting piece on the Lion of Münster, but none of the war references are new - they have been in the public domain for decades, including the published documents of Acts and Documents of the Holy See (ADSS).

One last comment.  The cover of the English translation features a photo of Eugenio Pacelli during his time as Nuncio to Germany (1917-1929) entering the Presidential residence in Berlin.  It is similar to the image used on the cover of John Cornwall's 1999 "Hitler's Pope".  This is a not-so-subtle form of mischief making.  As any Year 12 history student would be able to say, the Nazis did not come to power until January 1933 when Pacelli had been gone from Germany for over three years.  Why use an irrelevant picture if not to sensationalise?

Fortunately the editorial review found on Amazon gives a more hopeful synopsis of Wolf's book. I have ordered it and look forward to reading it.